I am planning a visit to Southern California at the very end of March for the first few weeks of April. My good friend Fr. William Bower said that I might experience a little bit of "reverse culture shock" upon my return!!
So...when last I wrote, we had arrived in Agra, and we had seen the Taj Mahal ... and we were both completely blown away by it. As a matter of fact... A. Suzanne was so blown-away, that she decided to take the next day off to do a "spa-day" - and I couldn't blame her !! I got up and had breakfast on Friday the 26th of November - - and just our guide and I went out and saw whatever it is that was left to see in Agra. Truth-be-told...once you have seen the Taj Mahal...any other local sights just seem pale by comparison...
We saw the Agra Fort first...it was actually pretty interesting... It is one of the large fortified residences built at various strategic points of Mughal Empire; it had over five hundred buildings, as mentioned by Abul Fazal in his chronicles. Most of the buildings added later use marble as the chief construction material. At the time of Akbar, River Yamuna touched the fort and thus, a number of ghats were built here. Some of these ghats were meant to load and unload goods transported through river and other covered passages were for use by the harem inmates only. It was nice to be a Mughal king!!
Then we drove a short way to Sikandra to see the Tomb of Akbar the Great In may ways, this tomb was like a mini-Taj Mahal. Akbar's tomb built in a pyramidal shape, with an open terrace covered with carved latticework screens. The actual grave is in the basement and is decorated with paintings in colorful golden, green and blue hues on the stucco walls. There was a man down there who would chant "Allah'hu akbar" (Allah is the greatest) every so often...and the echo was incredible!! While the tomb is not magnificent in the manner of the Taj Mahal, it has a quiet dignity that befits this regal emperor. There are lawns outside the impressive gateway, where deer can be seen. Birds nest in the trees leading to the gate and monkeys, which have got used to visitors, scamper up curiously hoping to be fed. There was a German guy who tried to pet one of the monkeys on the head...and - the guy almost lost a hand!! Some tourists are just plain stupid.
After my day of sightseeing, Suzanne and I stayed around the hotel, we went out bu the pool to enjoy the sunshine...and ate a final meal at what had become our favorite restaurant, the Peshawri in the ITC Mughal Sheraton in Agra. A really great restaurant (and a huge amount of food!!)...and the grounds of the hotel are really stunning...with a "butterfly garden", croquet field, great pools and a truly wonderful spa! Definitely worth staying there...and - from one of the hotel rooftops, you can see the Taj Mahal in the distance.
We got a good nights' sleep and the next day...we drove to New Delhi to grab a plane to Amritsar and the Sikh Golden Temple. I didn't think anything could be as impressive as the Taj Mahal....but - stay tuned to this blog for the story of our trip to Amritsar...truly a piece of heaven on earth!
Some pics from Agra...